Former intelligence official RSN Singh ponders over the lessons from Sri Lanka, and concludes that `the oft repeated theory that insurgency cannot be solved militarily, should be rubbished`.
Sri Lanka being an island country, a support base in India was critical for the LTTE to wage its war. After having successfully created this base, Vellupillai Prabhakaran, the elusive Tiger leader who was killed recently, destroyed it by his own inexplicable action of eliminating Rajiv Gandhi.
I was an instructor in the Officers Training Academy (OTA) at Chennai from 1990 to 1992. During this period I witnessed both the peak and decimation of LTTE in-roads and influence in Tamil Nadu. When I joined the OTA, such was the atmosphere and so pervasive was the LTTE influence and infiltration that I felt that the situation in the state was becoming far more explosive than in Punjab. The LTTE had begun to dominate many important organs of the state. But the LTTE support base withered within a day following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. In fact, on that fateful day, I had the occasion to meet Rajiv Gandhi in the lounge of Chennai Airport where I had gone to receive a senior officer.
Rajiv Gandhi`s assassination will always remain a mystery to me because the IPKF had already been de-inducted from Sri Lanka and there was not even a modest probability of Indian military intervention again, even if Rajiv Gandhi were to become Prime Minister again, given the hostility of President Ranasinghe Premadasa and intense domestic criticism.
Prabhakaran had colluded with Premadasa in ensuring the ouster of the IPKF because the Indian Army had begun to break the back of LTTE after some initial setbacks. It should also not be forgotten that the presence of the IPKF enabled the Sri Lankan government to crush the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) insurrection, which had bedeviled the southern part of the country for more than two decades. It was the first time that India had looked beyond its borders to secure its security and interests. Unfortunately, many people in the political-class and other segments of the society, bereft of strategic thought, questioned the sagacity of Indian intervention in Sri Lanka.
Image: Former Prime Rajiv Gandhi listens to a poem recited by a young girl moments before Dhanu, with flowers in her hair, left, set off the bomb which killed him at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu on May 21 1991. Picture copyright Associated Press. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
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